No money? Business alum is helping others ‘Know Money’
Money may not buy happiness but knowing how to manage it can keep you from being evicted, having your car repossessed, or shut out by credit card companies. Just ask Steven M. Hughes.
The 2017 College of Business management graduate experienced all of the above after enrolling at Clemson in 2005. Today, the Columbia native is helping others avoid the financial pitfalls that plagued him in early adulthood through his non-profit, Know Money, Inc.
Based in Columbia, Know Money Inc., educates South Carolina millennials, and others, on how to manage and grow their money, something Hughes, 30, lacked an understanding of as a college student.
“My parents couldn’t give me what they didn’t have (in terms of financial education) and we didn’t talk about money at home around the dining table. So, when I got to college, I started burning through credit cards,” Hughes said. “It wasn’t long before I had maxed out seven credit cards, had my car repossessed and was evicted from my apartment.”
But like good entrepreneurs often do, the founder and chief financial mentor of Know Money identified and tackled his problem head-on. Not only did his decision not to let money burn a hole in his pocket benefit him, it put him onto an idea to help others like himself.
“In 2010, I wasn’t far from earning a degree, but I was leery about taking on more student loan debt, so I took a break from school and worked in sales,” he added. “I was ready to turn my financial life around and do a better job managing my money so I attended a financial education workshop.”
Though his efforts were noble, Hughes admits what the instructor presented was way over his head, and he noticed others attending with blank looks on their faces.
So in 2014, while still on sabbatical from school, Know Money, Inc., was launched.
“I immersed myself in information on managing money, saving, and investing, through a variety of channels. Working full-time, I had begun to pay off my debt and wanted to try and help others in some way.”
He did some one-on-one consults but time limitations didn’t allow him to reach many people. So, he tried a different group approach. Rather than resort to power points or webinars, he showed the documentary movie, “Spent,” to create a different learning environment.
“We got great feedback on the approach. People hadn’t learned that way. Today, we get similar responses that people have never been taught financial education the way we do it. After that initial class, I handpicked some volunteer board members and Know Money got certified as a 501© (3).”
Hughes estimates Know Money has helped thousands of young people better understand money management through the organization’s action and activity-based workshops. In 2017 alone, their financial education model has reached 1,200 people.
“As a non-profit we have no paid staff, so we contract facilitators who have a variety of specialties. Because money is such an intimate topic, 90 percent of our interaction is face to face. Our clients get hands-on help and we make sure they leave a workshop with the knowledge to take action on improving their financial situation.”
His work with South Carolina schools, companies and communities has earned Hughes praise and awards for helping millennials better understand budgeting, saving, eliminating debt, credit management and investing. His reach into the community has extended to local airwaves where he hosts a weekly financial segment, “Money Monday,” on WLTX-TV in Columbia.
Hughes returned to Clemson this summer to finish the few credits he needed to graduate. Soon thereafter, he was named to the “Roaring 10” list of young alumni by the Clemson Young Alumni Council. It recognizes 10 alums each year for their influence in business, community, education and philanthropy and for exemplifying Clemson’s core values.
“When I get in front audiences and tell them about my money mistakes, it seems to give me credibility with the attendees. I remember when I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. But once I set my financial goals, I started to better understand what I owed, what was coming in and what was going out. It worked for me and we’ve shown it can work for others.”
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